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The Dopamine System in Mediating Alcohol Effects in Humans

  • K. CharletEmail author
  • A. Beck
  • A. Heinz
Chapter
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 13)

Abstract

Recent brain–imaging studies revealed that the development and maintenance of alcohol dependence is determined by a complex interaction of different neurotransmitter systems and multiple psychological factors. In this context, the dopaminergic reinforcement system appears to be of fundamental importance. We focus on the excitatory and depressant effects of acute versus chronic alcohol intake and its impact on dopaminergic neurotransmission. Furthermore, we describe alterations in dopaminergic neurotransmission as associated with symptoms of alcohol dependence. We specifically focus on neuroadaptations to chronic alcohol consumption and their effect on central processing of alcohol-associated and reward-related stimuli. Dysfunctional reward processing, impaired reinforcement learning and increased salience attribution to alcohol-associated stimuli enable alcohol cues to drive alcohol seeking and consumption. Finally, we will discuss how the neurobiological and neurochemical mechanisms of alcohol-associated alterations in reward processing and learning can interact with personality traits, cognition and emotion processing.

Keywords

Dopamine Acute alcohol effects Chronic alcohol effects Imaging Cue-reactivity Reward system 

List of Abbreviations

5-HT

Serotonin

ACC

Anterior cingulate cortex

AMPA

α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid receptors

BAC

Blood alcohol concentration

BOLD

Blood oxygen level dependent response

CNS

Central nervous system

CS

Pavlovian conditioned stimulus

DA

Dopamine

DLPFC

Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex

DRD1

Dopamine D1 receptor

DRD2

Dopamine D2 receptor

DRD3

Dopamine D3 receptor

DTI

Diffusion tensor imaging

EEG

Electroencephalography

EtOH

Ethanol

fMRI

Functional magnetic resonance imaging

F-DOPA

[18F]Fluoro-L-dopa

GABA

Gamma-aminobutyric acid

HA

Harm Avoidance

IAPS

International Affective Picture System

LTP

Long-term potentiation

MPFC

Medial prefrontal cortex

NAc

Nucleus accumbens

NMDA

N-methyl-D-aspartate

NS

Novelty Seeking

OFC

Orbitofrontal cortex

PET

Positron emission tomography

PFC

Prefrontal cortex

SPECT

Single photon emission computed tomography

SPM

Statistical Parametric Mapping

SSRI

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

T1

T1-Weighted magnetic resonance sequence

TPQ

Cloningers Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (Cloninger 1987b)

VTA

Ventral tegmental area

WM

Working memory

Notes

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; HE 2597/4-3; 7-3; EXC257), by the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin (BMBF grant 01GQ0411) and NGFN (BMBF grant 01GS08159).

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyCharité Universitätsmedizin BerlinBerlinGermany

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